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Defending the ‘essence of Maine’ against industrial wind turbines  

Credit:  By Karen Bessey Pease, The Times Record, www.timesrecord.com 7 January 2011 ~~

In the January 2011 issue of Down East magazine, there is a section called “Maine In Your Words.” People from every corner of the country described their perspective of this state – what Maine means to them. The myriad responses were touching, and telling. Maine is simply unique. We already have what so many others are craving.

That article coincides with the submission to Land Use Regulation Commission of a revised permit application for the Highland Wind project. Just hours ago, I read the press release provided by Angus King and Rob Gardiner, the two principals of Highland Wind, LLC, the developer for the project. The statement is, in my opinion, public relations fluff.

The interveners and interested parties in this project have attempted to be factual when speaking to the public and the press about industrial wind’s huge impacts and negligible benefits. The developer, however, has continued to mislead the public.

The press release touted a production figure of 325 million kilowatt hours/year and appears to be based on the expected capacity factor of 30 percent to 35 percent. However, the Stetson project reported a 17.5 percent production figure for the very windy month of April and FERC reports actual production figures for the first 8 months of the Kibby project as 19.3 percent. The turbine at University of Maine Presque Isle, after 18 months online, has a production level below 12 percent. (For live turbine data go online to http://www.umpi.edu/wind/live).

These actual, reported production figures tell a more realistic story.

The developers also failed to mention how many Highlanders heat their homes with wood, therefore negating the “wind replacing oil” assurances.

They are quoted as saying the “project will bring more than 300 jobs to the local region.” I believe it is more accurate to say that 300 workers from elsewhere will be brought to the local region to build the project. Those 300 construction jobs will not be offered to Highland residents, will they?

And there is more.

The major difference in the application – as outlined in the press release – is that nine of the original 48 turbines have been removed from the project, which also results in a reduction in the amount of access road construction and permanent clear-cutting which will be necessary if the permit is approved. While I oppose – and will continue to oppose – this project in its entirety, I believe this is a victory for those Mainers who have been working to preserve our natural resources and quality of life, and promote common-sense, economical decisions regarding our energy future.

Make no mistake; this project is flawed.

But this revised permit is an indication that the developer recognizes that fact. I find it very ironic that Highland Wind LLC now proposes to forever protect the Stewart ridge from industrial wind turbines, when just a few short months ago, they were prepared to fight tooth and nail to have the original project approved in its entirety. Theirs is certainly a professionally designed PR campaign.

In the coming weeks, the application will be reviewed by the LURC staff and the public. When the time comes we will show why, based on sound science and economics, this project should not be approved. We are ready, and we are resolved. More importantly, we have the truth on our side.

Here is another irony. Former Gov. Angus King, project developer for Record Hill in Roxbury and the mountains in Highland Plantation, was quoted in that Down East article.

“Define the essence of Maine in a sentence.” Most people could not comply. Maine’s “essence” is multi-faceted, whether speaking about its majestic ocean and mountain vistas, its pragmatic yet generous inhabitants, or its abundant and diverse wildlife.

Some who responded to that question went on and on. Others, like Mr. King, managed to define Maine’s essence in two or three succinct sentences: “It’s common sense, independence, understatement, and values. It’s one of the few places left that you can rightly say has character, both in its land and its people.”

In this instance, I agree with Mr. King’s words, if not with his actions.

The ‘Maine’ these people (quoted below) speak of is the Maine those common-sense, independent and value-infused citizens our former governor spoke of are trying to preserve.

“A state that beckons us through serene natural beauty, rather than manufactured attractions.” – Bill and Jean Steer, Flat Rock, N.C.

“It is where the toxicity of modern life washes off, and I recharge. I get to breathe air and hear sounds that are still as our maker intended. In Maine, life still makes some sense.” – John Blankinship, Cornwall, N.Y.

Defining the essence of Maine should come easily. I love this state, and I have an affinity with my fellow “natives” and with those who came here “from away” because this state and her people are incomparable.

But as I sit here digesting the new information in the Highland Wind LLC permit application, and as I recognize that life here in Maine will never be the same for me, whether we succeed in our opposition to this misguided plan for our mountains, or not, I am stumped.

The “essence” of Maine is too far-reaching, too remarkable, for me to define it in a sentence or two. But for now, I think one word will suffice.

Maine is … home.

Karen Bessy Pease lives in Lexington Township.

Source:  By Karen Bessey Pease, The Times Record, www.timesrecord.com 7 January 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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